Whenever you receive harsh criticism, it can be hard to get yourself motivated again. The thing is—your writing is always going to be judged, either by people who want to help you or people who want to take you down a notch. I’ve talked before about distinguishing between the two, but the truth is ANY sort of criticism is hard to deal with. You have to start looking at it in a different way and you need to use it to make yourself better. Most of the time, that’s easier said than done.
There will always be someone who just doesn’t like what you write. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t change their mind and you shouldn’t try to. You don’t like everything, do you? You have opinions on different books or movies or art and so does everyone else. Just because someone doesn’t like something you’ve done doesn’t mean no one else will. Not everyone is going to connect with your writing the way you hoped they would. Some people will flat out hate it. Pick yourself back up again and move on. After a while, it will stop bothering you so much.
If you’re in the editing process and someone is helping you out, they might give you loads of corrections along with opinions about what you need to change. Your first reaction will probably be—“I don’t need to change this. They just don’t understand.” Obviously when you’ve written something and it means a lot to you, you can become very protective when someone wants to change it. The truth is if one person is confused right off the bat about something, everyone else will probably be confused too. This person helping you out isn’t trying to hurt you. If they are taking the time to help you fix your work, it’s because they believe you can be better, maybe even great. They already think your work has potential.
If you want to get better, you have to learn how to utilize what people are telling you. Don’t shut everyone out because you’re afraid you’re not good enough. AND if someone is constantly making you feel bad about yourself without offering anything constructive, tell them to SHUT UP.
Sagging middles especially result when there is no increase in tension as the plot progresses. In the move towards the climax, your characters should face increasingly bigger obstacles and challenges. Things should get more complicated – never less. Characters should have more at stake as events unfold. The emotions should run higher and deeper. And each event should leave the reader more concerned about what will happen next.
ADMIN NOTE: This post has been taken from an article originally created by NovelDoctor.com.
The things stated below were not written by me. A friend of mine had found this information and thought that it could be useful for writing. I do not know where the information originally originates from, but all credit goes to them. I’m just trying to make the information available to all who will find it useful.
Simplify Attributions – As much as possible, just use “said” and “asked” and their variations in dialogue scenes. Or use nothing at all when the context makes it unquestionably clear who’s talking. People who bark, spit, grunt, or burp their words need to see a doctor. Or a veterinarian. Clever attributions can divert attention from the dialogue to the attribution itself. You don’t want this to happen. “Trust me,” he puked.
Don’t Be a Puppet Master – In real life, people bring assumptions and prior knowledge to a conversation. This is also true for your fictional characters. Don’t force dialogue through your characters’ throats because you need to tell the reader something. If the information wouldn’t naturally be revealed in the context of the conversation, find another way to deliver it. Your characters aren’t puppets; they’re people. Treat them as such.
Maintain Believable Pacing – Most conversations aren’t like a game of ping-pong, despite how convenient it would be to use ping-pong as a visual metaphor. Unlike ping-pong, the back and forth of conversation is uneven, sometimes dominated by one party, sometimes rapid-fire, sometimes languid. Context should always determine who’s talking and what they’re saying. There is a rhythm to good dialogue, but it’s rarely something you can set your metronome to. Don’t force characters to speak just because you’re uncomfortable with their silence. Always let the moment decide its own pacing.
Avoid Long Monologues - I know. One of your characters is a blowhard. He likes the sound of his voice and this is important to the character development or plot. Let him have his way. But don’t make a habit out of long speeches unless the story requires it. Dialogue usually requires two people. And while one may say little while the other says a lot (see pacing, above), giving characters pages of monological diatribes risks boring the reader. And in my experience, long-winded monologues are frequently evidence of a kind of laziness on the part of the writer. Rather than revealing important information contextually and through creative “show, don’t tell” opportunities, they make their characters dump it on the page for them (see puppet note above).
Kill (Most) Adverbs – Do I need to say it again? Only use adverbs when they actually add something to the dialogue. If it’s clear the character is upset and yelling, you don’t need to add that she’s yelling “loudly.” Yelling is, without further qualification, loud. That said, you might actually find use for adverbs in the dialogue itself. Real people use them in conversation (though not as much as you might think). That’s fine. Just don’t staple them willy-nilly to all your attributions.
Use Contractions – Unless you’re writing a period piece or a novel that otherwise demands the stiff-upper-lippedness of contraction-free speech, please use them without apology. They just sound more natural. This, by the way, holds true not only for dialogue, but also for the rest of your narrative. If you want to challenge this advice, that’s fine. Please have your well-thought-out reasoning notarized by at least three editors who agree with you before presenting it to me. Thanks.
Don’t Give Readers Whiplash – “A lot of newbie authors,” he began, turning to look her mascara-streaked face, “suffer from this malady.” He looked down. “They break up a single piece of dialogue,” he continued, “with so many little ‘asides’ that the reader gets whiplash.” He looked up into her eyes again. “Do you know what I mean?”
There’s a time and place for action in the middle of dialogue, and when done right, that action can greatly enhance a scene. A well-timed look or touch can speak volumes. Just don’t use action to distraction.
Use Dialects Sparingly – Some of the best novels ever written are packed with well-defined characters who speak with dialects that by their very nature reveal a certain level of education or perhaps a country (or region) of origin. Characters with unique or easily-recognizable dialects can add a great deal to a story. However, crafting believable characters with any sort of dialect is no easy task. In part, this is because the dialect you see with your eyes (on the page) has a much different “feel” than a dialect you hear with your ears. In some cases, dialect can detract rather than enhance a story. If your character’s speech is hard to understand (and this isn’t due to an intentional plot point), consider dialing back on dialect. And whenever you do use it, just be sure you’re consistent both to the way such a person would speak in real life, and from scene to scene in the story itself. Otherwise your characters will sound like Kevin Costner in…well…any movie where he attempts an accent.
Again, this article was originally created by NovelDoctor.com. You can read the whole article there.
- When it’s a scientific field. If you want to include lots of biology in your book, you’d better know more than ninth grade biology.
- When it’s another culture, or even your own culture in the past. If you rely on only prior knowledge and you get something laughably wrong, you can offend a lot of people.
- When you want to include the best item in a large category, such as dog breeds or guns, for a specific job.
- When you’re making an allusion to a book you haven’t read (not a good idea in the first place).
- When you’re talking about the human body in extreme conditions
you’d better know more than ninth grade biology.
you’d better know more than ninth grade biology.
you’d better know more than ninth grade biology.
The simple answer is no. The useful answer is no, but it should appear naturalistic.
Listen to people speaking in everyday situations. They don’t finish sentences, they stumble over their words, they backtrack and repeat themselves. In conversation people speak in a way that an outside observer wouldn’t know what they were talking about, they use in-jokes and slang particular to their family or group of friends.
It is these things that you want to filter out of your written dialogue (unless using it for a specific effect).
Let your dialogue appear naturalistic without being naturalistic.
As writers, most of us would admit to sometimes stifling our own potential because we’re afraid to fail at something new. In fact, most people can say that about their lives in general. But, because we are creative people, we have to expect more of ourselves than the status quo. But that expectation isn’t just limited to our lifestyles; we have to see new places, meet new people, and pursue new experiences—but we also have to push ourselves to try new things in the writing itself.
If you never experiment with your style, you’ll only ever be capable of what you’re already good at today. We’re hoping that you won’t be satisfied with just what you do well at this moment, but that you’ll try some of the following suggestions and push yourself to new heights in your writing…
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Val Kovalin has also written books on describing characters!
Giving critique can be just as daunting as receiving critique, but learning how to give feedback teaches writers how to read critically and identify issues and state them poignantly. This helps us look at our own stuff with a more critical eye and become better writers.
The key when starting out is to look at what other people say in their critiques, as this helps to sharpen the senses when reading critically. Sometimes certain issues are easy to identify, such as flow, consistency, transitions, and so forth. Some things are more conceptual or require a bit of deeper thought. Whatever the case may be, there’s going to be a definite learning curve.
Here are some tips on giving critique:
Ask what the writer is looking for. Some writers will want you to take an axe to what they wrote. Some writers will want you to critique the story and not the narrative. It depends on the writer and it depends on what stage of the revision process they’re on. If you’re on a forum or a writing website, the author may have prefaced their story with thoughts or questions, so make sure to check that out first.
Start out offering smaller critiques if you’re nervous. Writing forums and websites are perfect for this, and then you can see how other reviewers think about the same story/passage you read. It’s also helpful to pay attention to how the writer responds to their reviewers.
Don’t piggyback. At these writing communities, it’s easy to take whatever another reviewer said and say, “Yeah, that.” It’s fine to agree with other reviewers, because then the writer will know that more than one of their readers had the same issue, but it’s crucial that you think of something else to add.
Be positive, but don’t hold back. Unless a writer specifically says all they want is the cold, hard critique, then throw in comments about what you enjoyed. Positive reinforcement is a good thing, but don’t let that keep you from giving honest feedback. Holding back on your critique can only hurt the writer.
Be precise. “I didn’t like the way you said this.” That doesn’t help the writer. “The way you said this isn’t consistent with your character’s overall voice and here are some examples.” That can help the writer. State the issue you had and find concrete examples to support it.
Sometimes vague happens too. Sometimes something bothers us and we’re not sure what it is. All we can do is try to explain what our feelings are about a particular part of the story and how it didn’t work, but we can’t explain why. “I didn’t like how the characters interacted here.” That doesn’t help the writer. “I’m not sure why, but the way the characters interacted here didn’t feel natural because…” That might help the writer. Make sure you explain this as clearly as you can, because the writer might take it to another critique partner who’ll say, “Oh! I know why!”
Be objective. You’ll have your own personal preferences, especially when it comes to style. When you think you’re giving good critique, you might just be telling the writer to change their style so it’s more like your own. “I liked the way you described this, but I think it could be better if you did it THIS way instead.” Don’t do this.
You might have tics that aren’t necessarily wrong. I personally loathe the semicolon; to me, there’s nothing worse than a sentence that is both and neither something; I’ll work my magic to try and woo a writer against using it; ultimately, however, the decision is stylistic and completely up to the writer. Be aware of this, offer your suggestion, and don’t let yourself get frustrated or worked up by it.
Don’t be a jerk. No one likes a jerk. Sometimes you think you’re giving honest feedback that the writer needs to hear in order to become a better writer. You might not be. You might be phrasing your feedback so it sounds like, “I’m a better authority on this than you are, so I’m going to tell you that you did this particular thing totally wrong, and I’ll talk down to you as well.” This sort of tone sets up the writer to ignore any possible feedback you have to give, whether helpful or not.
Don’t be a jerk. So nice, you say it twice.
Make good on promises. Creative types don’t often work well with hard deadlines, but if you make a commitment, then you have to hold up your end. Know how you work and set realistic goals for yourself to read so much per day if you have to, but whatever you do, don’t wait until the writer comes to you like “???” and then shove all the reading into one night. You’re cheating the writer of the best critique you can give.
All critique is biased. Even yours. The writer might receive critique from someone else that completely contradicts some feedback that you gave. Fear not. You’ve done your job as fully and honestly as you could, and it’s up to the writer now.
(Also read tips on taking critique!)